Walking around the narrow, cobbled streets of Rüdesheim felt like a trip through a movie set designed to look like a “typical” German town. It was all there: half-timbered houses, taverns that open up into old courtyards, overhanging signs carved out of wood with gilded letters, and even some token characters dressed in traditional garb. To make things even more Disney-esque, our first stop was Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet, a museum filled with automated musical instruments. At first Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet seemed like a musty tourist trap filled with weird antique toys. That is, until our guide started showing us how the 18th- and 19th-century instruments worked. Puppets came to life and danced to music and player pianos and violins with mechanical fingers sang to us. I even got to hand-crank a melody from a giant music box (with the help of our tour guide, of course). We were still looking at weird antique toys, but these were fascinating weird antique toys!
There were about 350 self-playing musical instruments in all at the museum, some so tiny they could fit in your hand and others that filled up entire rooms. It was truly impressive.
After the museum, we wandered down the famously cramped pedestrian street named ‘Drosselgasse’ or ‘Thrush Alley’ that is lined with wine pubs and restaurants on both sides. It was a brisk morning, and we soon found ourselves warming up with some Rüdesheimer Kaffee, a local treat that is similar to Irish coffee. This coffee, however, is served in a traditional cup (see top image) and the key ingredients are some flaming brandy, a huge dollop of whipped cream, and some shaved chocolate on top. How could you go wrong?
Of course, you don't have to have a special cup — or even travel all the way to Germany — to enjoy this treat. Here's how to make it at home.
- Place three sugar cubes in a coffee cup
- Add a shot (1.5 fluid ounces) of brandy and set alight with a long match
- Stir with a long spoon until sugar is dissolved
- Fill the cup with hot coffee and top generously with whipped cream and chocolate.
For the most authentic version of this drink, the brand of alcohol used in Rüdesheim is Asbach Uralt, which is manufactured there.